Climate & Energy

The tropical global warming solution

Bali conference could end deforestation overnight

This post was co-written with Dorjee Sun, the head of Carbon Conservation, a company that works to protect forests in Indonesia from destruction. ----- Photo: Bali, Indonesia, is the perfect backdrop for this week's climate summit. No country better embodies the immense peril of inaction -- and the immense opportunity this meeting has to make massive and immediate progress in stemming the climate crisis. Indonesia is the world's third largest global warming polluter, behind the United States and China, and just ahead of Brazil. But in Indonesia, like Brazil and the rest of the tropical world, pollution isn't coming from factories, power plants, or cars like it is in the industrialized world. Instead, almost all of it is coming from the rapid burning of the world's vast tropical forests to make room for timber, agriculture, and especially palm oil plantations. (Despite its green reputation, palm oil is anything but: a recent study in Science found that palm oil, like other biofuels, produces two to nine times more greenhouse gases than regular old crude oil because of the forests and grasslands destroyed for its production.) Companies like Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, Cargill and Seattle's Imperium Renewables are paying top dollar to turn palm oil into food, cosmetics and biodiesel. That global demand has driven the value of a hectare of palms above $1000 (PDF) in some cases -- providing a powerful financial incentive to corporations, investors, and farmers to raze the forests, regardless of the consequences to the climate or to the endangered orangutans, tigers, and rhinoceroses - and indigenous people -- who need them to survive. The Bali conference could immediately eliminate that perverse accounting by making sure forests and other wild lands around the world are financially valued for the carbon they store, and not just their potential as timber or agricultural land. The way to do that is to allow polluters to get credit for protecting forests that they can apply against their pollution reduction obligations, an idea called carbon ranching or avoided deforestation. Polluters would jump at this opportunity. Protecting forests from destruction can cost as little as 75 cents per ton of carbon dioxide - even at higher costs, it's a fraction of the price (PDF) of cleaning up most industrial pollution. In the past, some environmentalists criticized carbon ranching for this very reason: they were concerned that if polluters focused their greenhouse gas reduction efforts on forest conservation, that would divert money from necessary clean-ups in industrial pollution. That's the wrong way to look at it. Because locking up carbon dioxide by protecting forests is so cheap, it means that the world can achieve bigger reductions in global warming pollution faster and for less money. Carbon ranching should be an argument for bigger immediate pollution reductions, from both forests and industry, not a way for polluters to get around their responsibility to clean up their own pollution.

White House renews energy bill veto threat

The White House just sent this letter (PDF) to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, renewing its threat to veto any bill that doesn’t follow exactly the (absurd) guidelines it laid out in its last letter.

Tasting notes: How to select the best green wine

Tips for low-carbon merrymaking

See that green line on the map? Study it closely, boozehounds. Those of you to the right of it can enjoy a nice French Bordeaux. Those to the left should be getting your Pinot from Napa. So concludes Dr. Vino in his excellent -- and topical! -- study, "Red, White and 'Green': The Cost of Carbon in the Global Wine Trade." The paper is nicely readable in addition to being thorough. Few details go unconsidered. Dr. Vino cares about the CO2 produced from the breakdown of sugar during the fermentation process. He mulls the land-use implications of grape production. He knows his screw caps from his corks. All of these factors (well, not the corks) feed into a model that allows the paper's authors to compute the carbon content of different bottles of wine drunk in various points in the U.S. Some conclusions:

Xerox substantially reduces emissions, pledges to do more

In 2002, Xerox Corp. pledged to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions 10 percent by 2012. With four years to go, the company has in fact reduced emissions by 18 percent, and has boosted its goal to 25 percent by 2012. Xerox says it saved $18 million last year through practices like increasing manufacturing efficiency and reducing employees’ job-related driving. Seems like a plan worth … wait for it … copying.

Apparel companies hire climatologists to predict consumer trends

In the good old days, the only constant that the fickle fashion industry could rely on was the changing of the seasons — now, it can’t even rely on that anymore. A run of unseasonably warm winters has led some apparel companies to hire staff climatologists who help predict when consumers will be in the market for cold-weather clothes. Because, darling, buying a winter-anticipating coat in August is so five years ago.

Response to Jeremy Carl, part four

Even in the short term, R&E is a better choice than clean coal for developing nations

OK, if you’re just joining us in this apparently interminable series, here’s where we’ve been: Jeremy said the power players in China and India (C&I) "care about money, not climate." But if that’s true, they’re not going to go for clean coal either — it’s more expensive. Happily, I think it’s not going to be true for long. Developing countries are going to work to reduce their emissions; they have to. There are indeed compelling reasons to think that C&I will opt for clean coal over R&E. Immense social and economic power has gathered around coal; it would take extraordinary …

Australia ratifies Kyoto Protocol

On his very first official day in office today, new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol, committing his country to deep emissions cuts and putting ever more peer pressure on the United States — the only industrialized nation still holding out on Kyoto ratification. Full official ratification for Australia is still 90 days away since the U.N. has to do its bureaucratic waiting thing, but Australia has done its part to commit to emissions reductions under the treaty. “Australia’s official declaration today that we will become a member of the Kyoto Protocol is a significant step forward …

How will you ride the slide?

(via Big Gav)

Terrific ad

Governors urge federal action on global warming

Just saw this great ad on TV: The background:

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